Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘Purple Mash’

Are you an Angry Bird (addict)?

So…here goes with my second post of the day – I must be mad. I did, however, promise a few people I would share a few of my bonkers ideas for using Angry Birds as a basis for learning in the classroom. I’m sure many of you have some ideas of your own to go with this topic and I have a few friends who have already been using Angry Birds activities as a way of engaging pupils in the classroom. Now not all of these ideas are ICT based but I promised I would share them so…here we go…

First the mad part. I was sitting on the train the other day with my ipad and I saw a mum bring out some home made toys for her little one. Simple felt balls, about 6 cms across, (created as shown above) with little eyes and extras on. I thought how that would make a lovely idea for a school fete or similar and made a note of it.  Then she brought out a blue one that looked just like an Angry Bird – my mind went into overdrive. My initial idea was to get pupils to create them (or, possibly a friendly adult) and stuff them with a set weight of kapok so they could be used in maths for weighing/comparing/measuring. Maybe sort them so that the black one weighs twice as much as the red one which weights twice as much as the blue ones (if you know what I mean). After this, mind still in overdrive mode, I thought about creating a separate set of blue ones which had three mini blue ones inside – for times tables work or counting (but  I realise this might be pushing things a little too far…). Of course, if money is no object, you could always purchase a complete set of Angry Birds plush toys but I doubt many school budgets would stretch to them!

Let’s move onto my next batch of mad ideas then. After maths I moved onto science. How about using the little blighters you’ve just made for maths in a lesson on forces, complete with giant catapult. Too dangerous? Well it’s just an idea. Coming back down to earth with a bump (!!!! – sorry, couldn’t resist) why not use autoshapes, or another shape drawing program, to create your own Angry Birds? They could be as simple or complicated as you like. The one above is fairly straightforward – I bet the pupils could come up with something better. Another ICT idea I came up with involved the use of 2DIY (or maybe even 2DIY 3D if you have access to Purple Mash): creating games based on the Angry Birds story and characters. Maybe a journey game where the birds have to sneak past the pigs. Or a collection game for finding golden eggs. Again – the children are bound to come up with much better ideas.

And so to my final few ideas for today (and, I’m warning you, I have loads more): let’s link to literacy. If there are pupils who are really familiar with the game they could hone their instruction writing skills by creating walkthroughs for other children to follow. I think this would be a lovely exercise that could involve some really obvious peer assessment. I also think that the initial introduction to the game would make an interesting story starter and, if you want to get really into it, why not get pupils to storyboard and create their own game trailers, similar to the one seen here? I bet they come up with some corkers!

Getting Better All the Time

Well done to the bods at 2simple! They’ve just revamped their fantastic creative online space, Purple Mash, and, I have to say, it looks rather spiffing and works very well. New graphics, new menus, a lovely clear layout and an amazing array of content. If you haven’t tried it you really should: it’s inclusive, adaptable, cross curricular and a whole lot of fun. Pupils can have their own logins and save work in their own online space or to their own computer: meaning they can be creative at school and at home. Of course I’ve been a fan of Purple Mash for quite a while but, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, let’s have a look at some of the new developments.

Well, firstly, there are some nice little changes to the main menu and subsequent areas. For a start there’s the addition of links for the different educational phases, making it easier for teachers to see what content might be age and skills appropriate. As you hover over each icon a lovely, unobtrusive pop up menu explains what to expect when you click through. They’ve also included a link to the most seasonal activities, the most popular activities and their latest content. All these features make it far simpler to get find what you want which, for busy teachers or impatient pupils has to be a good thing.

One of the most anticipated developments in Purple Mash (especially among some of the pupils I know) has been the inclusion of 2DIY 3D – a fantastic maze game creator that has a cross curricular purpose while, at the same time, being a whole lot of fun. I’m not going to wax lyrical on this now (although I think it’s absolutely fantastic) as there is a fantastic post available for you to read right here that will pretty much tell you all you need to know. I will, however, say that I think this activity lends itself you finding interesting textures that can be used to create the stunning 3D landscape (as seen above). I quite like to use a site I’ve mentioned before called CG Textures and, in the above screenshot, I used a tiled sky texture to create the ‘roof’ of the activity. The walls of the maze were created using a tree image I created especially. I think I’ll probably make more elements like this and post them as a bundle at a later date. Finally, I used a picture of the grass in my garden on the floor: I was trying to get a foresty feel as the game I’m creating is linked to the fabulous children’s book ‘The Gruffalo’ and I will be posting about this some time soon. Of course games are to be played and need to be shared and 2Simple have even got this covered. Once games created with 2DIY 3D have been completed and saved there’s a ‘share’ option allowing you to link to the game or embed it in a blog post/school website. Genius!

Going back to the main menu, another addition which I think teachers will find really helpful is the new Themes section which can be accessed from the tabs across the right of the page. As more schools go down a creative curriculum route they need to be able to find resources on a given theme quickly and efficiently. This section is just the job: I counted over 30 themes available at the moment and, when you consider how often the team at 2Simple are adding new and relevant content, that’s only going to blossom and grow even more.

So there you have it: quick, initial thoughts on the revamped Purple Mash. I think it’s getting better all the time: have a look and see what you think.

World in Union

Well, the 2011 rugby World Cup has started and I, for one, am pretty excited about it. Maybe it’s because I’m Welsh but I’m pretty sure others feel the same so I thought I’d share some resources and ideas you could use with your class. And I’m going to start with those super people at Purple Mash who are yet again ‘on the ball’ (excuse the pun) when it comes to current and relevant content to use in the classroom. There are a few resources to choose from here, including a great template for writing a match report , and all of the activities include fantastic themed clip art in addition to word banks or writing prompts. There are also other resources that would fit into this theme. There’s a Welsh Celebrity Profile writing frame which includes rugby themed clip art (great for writing about Shane Williams or your favourite Welsh player) and a Sports Star Profile (no rugby themed clip art but you could use the drawing tools). There’s a writing frame for describing the rules of a sport (rugby clip art included) and, if you visit the creative tools section, there are some useful writing frame templates available via 2Publish and 2PublishExtra. Make a rugby themed word wheel! Or a poster! Or a leaflet about one of the counties involved! Loads of lovely possibilities all in one handy online space. You could even use 2Investigate to create a graph about the top players. If you’ve not used PurpleMash before and would like to know more then get in touch with the bods at 2Simple or send them a message online (via Facebook or Twitter).

Of course the statistical information involved in any sporting event makes it obvious to link this topic to Maths and there are lots of possibilities. There is plenty of statistical information available on the official site but it might be nice to follow the event and come up with activities of your own. During the last Rugby World Cup a friend of mine used the pools as a sort of mini competition between the groups in his class. 4 pools – 4 groups. Pupils were in charge of keeping a note of all the scores recorded by teams in their pool and using little numbered rugby balls to keep their total updated every day. A bit of a competition with a smattering of basic number skills and place value thrown in – the winner being the table with the most points scored. There are also plenty of investigations that could be done based on the rugby field itself: area, perimeter, measuring etc. and a bit of fun to be had with angles (linked to goal kicking). There are also fantastic opportunities to link the topic to DT/Art (flag, kit or mascot design, build a stadium), Science (investigations of fabrics used in sports kits, forces), Geography (pick any of the countries involved) – you name it!

So what about activities linked to ICT? Well, in addition to the great stuff available via Purple Mash it would also be worth searching through resources available via TES Connect (there is bound to be something useful) and seeing what the teaching resource section on the official site has to offer. You could get pupils to make adverts, publicising the games ,using Windows Movie Maker, Photo Story or iMovie or use Pivot Stick Figure to make some rugby themed animations  I’ve put together made an ICT challenge pack aimed at KS2 (but you could adapt the idea) if you want to have a go. I’ve also added a selection of clip art to my posterous blog (it’s already included in the challenge pack) if you felt like creating top trump cards or something similar – in fact, why not get the children to do it. That’s far much more fun!

 

Appy Together

Yesterday I spent a few pleasant hours with two of my grandchildren. The weather wasn’t great so I came armed with a plethora of techy stuff that I know would amuse them and keep them busy: a laptop loaded with software, and ipad full of apps and my phone. The boys, aged 4 and 6, are really typical boys: they love trains, cars, the Wii, Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ben 10, Lego (well, anything construction based really), hand held gaming, rugby, football, swimming, the park and pretending to battle each other. They have an old laptop at home and use it for half an hour each per day and to help them with any homework. Although they’re close in age, and get on really well together, the younger one is always trying to do what his older sibling can, with varying degrees of success (and often a bit of frustration!).

Lots of fun with Misty Island Rescue

The first thing they actually asked as I came through the door was ‘have you got the ipad?’ I brought it the last time I visited and they’ve been waiting to get their mitts back on it ever since. The last time they used it the app that had fascinated them most (especially the younger one) was Talking Tom, but this was old hat now. They’ve seen Talking Tom on the phones of quite a few family members now so it didn’t hold the same appeal. The same could be said of Angry Birds: both still had a go but were more impressed by the fact I now had it on the laptop!  It was pleasing to see that the apps they had remembered from last time and wanted to revisit were mostly story based apps: Misty Island Rescue, Rumble in the Jungle and Toy Story 3. Although these apps are not free I do think they are good value: you get the story (read aloud or self read) and a number of supporting activities (colouring, matching, puzzles etc.) to go along with them. As the boys (and other grandchildren) have enjoyed them so much I had supplemented them with a few more, some of which would be great to use in the classroom. I particularly like Elmer’s Special Day but my grandsons really went for Cars 2 (‘it’s like the movie…but a story!!!’ commented the older one) but then they are mildly obsessed with Lightning McQueen, so that was pretty much expected.

Puppet Pals is always popular

Another app they revisited was Puppet Pals, which I’ve mentioned before and is my favourite app to use with youngsters: from EY to Year 6, they all seem to get something out of it. This time I got the boys to use ‘cut-out’ versions of themselves in their stories, which were strangely surreal but still entertaining. I’ll pop some links up to some of them later on (I would do it now but haven’t bothered to export them yet and OH has taken the ipad to work today). The older brother tends to base his stories around things he already knows: he made a cowboy story where all the characters were named after characters in Super Mario Bros and a couple of others where he borrowed quite liberally from Handa’s Surprise and Ben 10. Lovely. The younger brother likes to use the monster characters and pretend they’re eating or killing each other. He loves how he can make the characters really big or small and work this into the story. Not that there is a lot of narrative going on in these: he is HI and has articulation difficulties. His sound effects are spot on though and you can easily get the gist of what he’s trying to say! They even had a few joint attempts at creating stories: these made me laugh the most as every so often one or the other would say ‘no’ or ‘I don’t want that to happen’ and it all ends up on the soundtrack – priceless.

Collaboration between brothers using Puppet Pals

So, onto some new apps that we tried out for the first time yesterday. Clicky Sticky is an app that allows you to add bits of clip art to a background scene. You can add your own backgrounds and make adjustments to the clip art provided. You can save what you create. So far, so average. What really grabbed the boys attention was the addition of sound effects as you created your scene: simple but very effective and the clip art provided was really colourful and appealing to both boys. The themes were good too: all the usual things that little ones are interested in (dinosaurs being the boys top pick) – great! The boys also loved Lego Creationary (let’s face it: most boys, young and old, do love Lego) and the free Kid Blocks (the older brother loved this but found it tricky starting off) , Cars Painting and Simon Says Cars (see above re: Lightning McQueen), Photo Speak (like a basic version of Crazy Talk), My Very First App (gorgeous if you’re a fan of Eric Carle) and Create a Car. Yes – the majority of these apps are probably ones that are aiming to engage boys rather than ones that would be used equally by both genders but to balance it out there are plenty of ‘girl focussed’ apps available too (Peppa Pig Stars anyone?) and I have many of them installed. The boys just didn’t choose them…

And, just before anyone accuses me of getting ipad obsessed, we didn’t just do techy things all day. In dispersed between the ipad and laptop fun (Purple Mash! 2Paint an Picture! Red Fish! Help Kidz Learn! ICT Games! Incredibox!) we also managed to read some stories, build an array of models (Lego, Zoob, Techno Toolbox, Georello – you name it , they can build with it), played on the Scalectrix and did some painting and a bit of colouring in. We watched a bit of mindless children’s TV and cooked some bolognese. At one point we pretended to be pirates and finished off every sentence with ‘Arrrrrr’ (or a variation of it). Growing up is about having opportunities to try out different things and variety is the spice of life. They still think the ipad rocks though.

Top of the World

Firstly – an apology for the recent lack of blog posts! I can safely say that it’s been a little bit busy!! Not so long ago I was in Newcastle at the Northern Grid conference; talking about ICT and inclusion. Then last week I had a whirlwind trip to London to pick up a TES Award where I got to put on a posh frock and chat to a lot of great people, including the famous Mr Thorne of ‘Mr Thorne Does Phonics‘ fame. It was a fantastic event and everybody I came across was really lovely, so I’ve got to say a big thank you to the TES team – you guys rock! Anyway, apart from the great excitement of the TES awards I had a few things that were going on just before and then just after: namely TeachMeet ThinkBig and Reflect and Share. Here’s a short report on each.

TeachMeet ThinkBig was small but perfectly formed. Due to the change of date we managed to clash with a few other things that were on but we managed to have a great time in any case. It was fairly amazing that anyone got to take part – our network crashed at 10am that morning and was still not working properly at 3pm. We managed it though and, thanks to the team at NGFL Cymru, it got streamed as well. Because we were in a fairly informal setting we managed to forget about the camera and have quite long discussions among ourselves – I’m sorry if this spoilt anyone’s viewing pleasure but there were a few newbies there and lots of questions were asked in between presentations. We had a number of virtual presentation from some great people I’ve got to know through Twitter, including this one from Mike McSharry (which had all of the attendees scribbling notes furiously), a couple from Alessio Bernardelli (including this one on using mind mapping properly) and a fantastic presentation on thinking skills in science from Claire Lotriet (there were many more great vidoes and I will add details to the wiki soon). We also had some interesting live presentations from Dave Stacey, who had some interesting ideas on how to use a text book, and Rosemary Davies, who shared a load of free web tools and talked about using Edmodo as a learning platform. I also gave a few presentations, mainly showing people a few things they may not have seen. One included a new variation of the old traffic light fans (I’ll talk about this at a later date in full) and later on I demonstrated 2Connect and explained why it’s such a great program for developing mind mapping in younger pupils or those with ALN. I also shared a few ideas that I’ve posted on here that I felt linked in with other presentations, especially ones that allowed for a bit of creativity or supported what was said in the presentations. In fact I probably talked way too much…(and that’s hardly ever the case).

Of course the Reflect and Share session, which took place on Wednesday, was quite different, This involved Year 6 pupils sharing their ideas about their learning and resources and activities they thought were worthwhile and eahc child involved made their own presentation or gave a demo to the staff who attended. We had presentation on a whole range of activities including developing problem solving skills by using Machinarium, using unusual images to inspire poetry, movement in art (inspired by work on Jackson Pollock), developing writing skills using Myst, using Wordle and other word based ideas and creating music using Incredibox and Isle of Tune (which I’ve talked about here). I don’t want to miss any presentations out here (pupils were brilliant and every presentation had something to offer) so the others were about the use of ebooks in the classroom (highlighting the books we have from Rising Stars), using Purple Mash at home and in class (everyone seems constantly amazed by how much content is available through it), using BlockCAD lego to link to DT, Prezi, Primary Pad and Primary Wall (this included live demos – staff were very impressed), our school library, how after school clubs have helped pupils improve skills, using Class Pet in class and at home (especially the maths activities), learning logs and Pivot Stick Figure. I was really proud of all of the pupils who took part (twenty one in all) but what I felt was truly fantastic was the way they had obviously taken on board things I had shown them or introduced them to and then taken it in their own direction. Hopefully it’s the sort of event that will take off in other areas – it was certainly worthwhile!

The Northern Lights

I’ve heard people say that it’s grim up north. I’m sorry, but I really have to disagree (quite strongly actually) as I’ve just come back from the Northern Grid Conference in Newcastle and I can safely say it was a fabulous event. Not only was it organised to perfection by the wonderful Simon Finch (and his amazing team) it was also truly inspiring! This was in no small part due to the amazing presenters and the pure diversity of the workshops on offer and I will blog more about that tomorrow. Today I’m going to focus on my own presentation, which was looking at inclusion and technology, as I did promise a few people I’d pop up some information as soon as I could. So here you go…

Presenting at the Northern Grid Conference was a little bit nerve racking!

I was originally going to present a 15 minute workshop but this ended up being extended due to my good friend, Mary Farmer, being indisposed by an eye op a few days before hand. This meant I now had 30 minutes to myself  – a daunting thought (for both me and the people watching). To say I was slightly worried would be an understatement, but I did catch up with a number of familiar faces before my morning session (they know who they are) all of whom convinced me I’d be fine. I’m not sure ‘fine’ would be the word I’d actually choose but things did seem to go okay and I survived two workshops virtually unscathed!

There were a few things I mentioned that are already well referenced in this blog but Multimodal PowerPoints did seem popular and there is a short tutorial and information on those available here I also spoke a little about the importance of various round ‘a’ fonts and there are a bunch of them here that you might like if this interests you. I also touched on using games based and hand held learning but I intend to blog about this soon in more detail so stay tuned. One thing I did promise was that I would try and recreate my presentation in video format so people who couldn’t get there could watch it. So here you go -I hope it’s not too rushed and that you can get an idea of what I’m saying. There were other ideas I spoke about that I didn’t have time to include here –  look out for a more in depth blog post about the conference later in the week.

More Music Matters

It’s time for part two of my posts about music and technology. Today I’m focussing on stuff that isn’t free but is still great to use in your classroom. Some of these items you might have already but it’s always worth investigating what is available so….here we go. I’m going to start with one that I’ve been using for quite a few years and is always popular with the older pupils, and that’s Dance EJay. One of the reasons I think it’s so popular is that it’s really easy to use. There are loads of sound samples available, all colour coded. At a glance it’s pretty easy to see how many beats each sample lasts and is very helpful when putting together sequences and loops. In fact, until the pupils in Years 5 and 6 discovered Incredibox, Isle of Tune and DJGames, Dance EJay was easily the most popular piece of music software chosen during Golden Time sessions in the ICT suite. Like the ideas posted yesterday, this is something that non musicians can use quite easily to create something cool and rhythmic although, in my opinion, despite the huge amount of samples included the sequences that are generated can sound a bit samey. Maybe that’s because the pupils find something they like, share it around with each other and then replicate it. Also, there is a temptation to fill every layer with a ‘wall’ of samples; leaving few gaps or breathers. But those are just quibbles and, when used as part of a structured music based session, the software can be very effective.

Now, Dance EJay might be popular with the older pupils but it is certainly not as accessible or versatile as the next program on my list: the amazing Music Toolkit from 2Simple. It spans a whole load of age ranges and abilities with a selection of levelled activities that work equally when used with a group using an IWB or on individual PCs. Pupils in Early Years(and those with SEN) can enjoy and  participate in using 2Explore while those with a little more know-how can start building melody with 2Compose. The package also contains 2Beat, 2Play (which I really enjoy having a bit of fun with), 2Sequence and 2 Synthesize: all of which are great stand alone activities in their own right that can be used in a number of different ways. I’ve had great fun linking 2Beat to Maths and building soundscapes for stories using 2Sequence (which is also available via Purple Mash if you’re a subscriber) in the past so it’s well worth investigating in detail what each individual program does and how you can fit it into your classroom sessions.

Some software developers, of course, specialise in music. EPS Music is one such company and is the creator of the popular Compose World series. To be honest, I haven’t used this software in school for a while, mainly because there are so many alternatives out there that I feel are more complete or competitively priced, but it would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention the software here. Obviously, being music specialists, the individual programs are very good quality and easily slot in to music sessions and activities. The downside is that all the products have to be bought separately, although EPS have launched an online subscription service which includes free demos of their products to try out first. Have a look and see what you think.

To finish off today I’m going to share some apps that are available for use on ipod touches and ipads, making them great for music on the move. The holy grail of these, at least as far as I am concerned, is Garageband. It’s been around a long time and is constantly being updated and added to. It has great instrumentation and features and is equally at home in a primary school as it is in a secondary (or beyond) setting. You can have fun with it or use it in a very structured way. There are help sites and tutorial videos dotted all over the place to help you come up with ideas of how to use it. If you’re in a setting that has access to Apple technology then you seriously need to check out its potential and give it a go. For fans of ambient music I’d suggest you try out Bloom, a simple yet effective little app which, again, might be useful for creating soundscapes to link in with class themes or story writing. More apps worth looking at include the surreal but fabulous Magic Piano (a current favourite among my grandchildren) and the equally strange but lovely Shapemix. Both are intuitive and fun: let’s face it; if my grandchildren (aged from 18mths up) are fans already they have to be easy to use! Another musical app I’m pleased to see arriving is JamStudio as it’s been available as a web based subscription site for quite a while (in fact the site is free for creative purposes – you just have to subscribe to be able to download your creations). For those people who find it easier to compose using chord progressions it really is a fantastic find. There are, in addition to the apps listed, none of which are ridiculously expensive, a number of free apps which I should have mentioned yesterday. Some of my favourites include JamPad, Beatwave (quite similar to the previously mentioned iNudge) and, for very young children, Cutie Melody. Truly – as far as music and tech is concerned – there is something available for everyone.

 

 

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